Mr. Dunne and the Magic Nectar

beeThis is an excerpt from my very first novel, Hans and Greta, which retells the story of Hansel and Gretel, set in the 1930s near Los Angeles.


Hans, Patrick, and I were going to Patrick’s house in the second car load, since Mr. Callahan’s car wasn’t big enough to take us all in one fell swoop. Patrick wanted to walk along the way, and Mr. Callahan agreed to pick us up on Main Street.

I trailed behind my little brother, watching him look up eagerly at the much-taller Patrick, and I tried to smother my misgivings. We were just going to visit with new friends after church. People did it all the time. Hans and I had made a new start here. There was no reason at all to think anything would go wrong.

We paused at the bookstore to look in the window, shading our eyes with our hands to see past our own reflections. Patrick said, “I always want to go in and buy everything I haven’t already read. What about you, Greta?”

I nodded. “Me, too. Maybe someday I’ll become famous for my honey and candles, and I can buy all the books we want.”

Patrick shook his head. “The cow would get sick.”

“We don’t have a cow,” Hans said.

“Okay, your bees, then.” Patrick looked at me curiously. “What do you do if your bees get sick? I don’t think the vet comes for that.”

“I don’t know; I’ll have to ask Mr. Dunne.” I smiled as a thought struck. “Can’t you just see Mr. Dunne, sitting up by candlelight, trying to coax a bee to take its medicine?”

Patrick grinned. “And there are hundreds of bees in a hive, right?” When I nodded, he added, “So there’s Mr. Dunne, feeding each bee one wee spoonful at a time. Poor guy, going without sleep, buzzing a lullaby to all the sick bees…”

“He’d have to live on honey and cups of tea,” Hans said.

“Right. And he could make up his bed on a straw mattress. The queen bee could tell him he had to go on a quest, to get some…” He turned to me. “What would a bee want?”

I thought for a moment. “Magic nectar.”

“That’ll work. And Mr. Dunne, like a knight in shining armor, would be her champion. He’d sally forth─”

“And he’d have to walk for days,” Hans added.

“Nice touch,” Patrick said. “So he’d go to a faraway land, where there’s a magic flower with the right nectar…”

“Only he couldn’t find it right away,” I told him. “He’d have to ask someone very wise.”

“You two are pretty good at this,” Patrick said. “So he goes to find the wise old beekeeper on top of a mountain somewhere. Should it be glass?”

I shook my head. “Over kill.”

“Probably. And the old beekeeper tells him where the flower is, except there’s something guarding it.”

“A rogue hummingbird,” I said.

“Unusual, but I guess those little beaks are pretty pointy. Shall we give it extra heads?”

“No,” Hans said, “Make it really strong and fast.”

“Right. So this vicious little guy, with the strength of a hundred hummingbirds, menaces the brave Sir Dunne and drives him away.”

“He’s not a knight,” I objected.

“The queen knighted him when she sent him on the quest. So then he makes friends with a hawk…”

“How?” Hans asked.

“Hmm…I don’t suppose his innate nobility would work?” Patrick paused. “No, okay, he could mend its wing… no, its mate’s wing, we don’t want to mark time while the bird gets better…”

“And the hawk could drive the hummingbird away,” Hans said.

Patrick nodded. “And the brave Sir Dunne gets the magic nectar for the queen bee…”

“And he travels a long way home,” Hans added.

“Yes,” Patrick said. “Now I think for the right dramatic tension, he should be menaced by something and almost lose the flask of precious nectar…”

Hans nodded. “Pirates.”

“Why would pirates want nectar?” Patrick asked reasonably.

“Maybe they think it would make them fly or something,” I said.

Patrick smiled. “Excellent, it would make them fly—that’s why the queen bee wants it.”

“But the pirates only want to fly so they can steal stuff,” Hans said.

“Right, they’re sadly lacking in chivalry. But the brave Sir Dunne, whose heart is pure, wins through.”

I smiled. “And he returns to the queen with the nectar and heals the bees.”

“And they’re eternally grateful,” Patrick said.

Hans nodded. “And they all lived happily ever after. The end.”

We all laughed as Mr. Callahan’s Ford pulled up, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I climbed into the back seat with Hans. There was no need for anyone to know anything that had happened before. Surely everything would be okay now.



Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

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Posted in My Stories
12 comments on “Mr. Dunne and the Magic Nectar
  1. This is a tantalizing tale. I love old stories revisited with a new twist.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This story is a delight to read: wise and witty as only children are. Clever recycling old stories. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] Mr. Dunne and the Magic Nectar by Cathleen Townsend […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks, Tess and Sharon. I chose Hansel and Greta for a couple of reasons. It said some things I really wanted to about abuse, and it was a fairy tale that wasn’t about a princess or a gal who became one. And it was Christian–in the Grimm version, the children pray when they’re abandoned.

    To me, children abandoned because their parents couldn’t feed them said Great Depression, perhaps because I’d just spent years doing interviews with all my family members who lived through that time. Anyway, there’s a lot of their experiences worked into the novel. It’s as much an homage to the Greatest Generation, how they made triumph out of adversity, as it is a retelling a fairy tale. And there’s my own story line, about the choices people make as abuse survivors as well.


  5. You’re awesome. I had no idea about the backstory but I have enjoyed the explanation and love this story. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ooh, I really loved this, Cathleen! This was an adorably sweet story! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. phoenixgrey85 says:

    I loved the children using their imaginations and dreaming themselves into a whole other world. Children have a way of believing that everything can be okay, even in the darkest of times. I think Hansel and Gretel would be an interesting story to look at through the lens of the modern world as well. Great stuff. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Grace says:

    Ha! Very nice. I like.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. blondeusk says:

    Love how you have given an old story a new lease of life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Love the new take on the Grimm fairy tale, and the backstory that goes with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ❤ This was sweet. I love the children's idea growing through their banter.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks so much, everyone. Your encouragement means the world to me. 🙂


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